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Taiwanese planes scramble as Chinese air force enters air defense zone

Taiwanese planes scramble as Chinese air force enters air defense zone

The Chinese and Taiwanese national flags are displayed alongside military aircraft in this illustration taken on April 9, 2021. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration

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TAIPEI (Reuters) – Taiwan’s air force scrambled on Friday to clear 18 Chinese planes that had entered the air defense zone, as part of a regular pattern of incursions that angered the government in Taipei, the defense ministry said.

Taiwan, which China claims as its territory, has complained of repeating such missions by Chinese aircraft, which have become a common occurrence over the past two years or so.

Taiwan is currently on high alert due to fears that China may use the Russian invasion of Ukraine to make a similar military move on the island, although the Taipei government has not announced any indications that Beijing is about to attack.

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Far from the last large-scale incursion, the number of aircraft participating was 39 Chinese aircraft on January 23, and since then, such flights have been with far fewer aircraft.

The latest mission included six Chinese J-11 fighters, six J-16 fighters, as well as two H-6 bombers, the ministry said.

There was no immediate comment from the Chinese Defense Ministry. China has described such previous missions to defend the country’s sovereignty and counter “collusion” with foreign forces – a veiled reference to US support for Taiwan.

The bombers, escorted by a Y-8 anti-submarine aircraft, flew to southern Taiwan via the Bashi Channel that separates the island from the Philippines.

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The other plane flew over an area to the northeast of the Taiwan-controlled Pratas islands at the upper end of the South China Sea, according to the ministry’s map.

Taiwanese fighters have been sent to warn Chinese planes and air defense missiles have been deployed to “monitor activities,” using standard language for how Taiwan describes its response, the ministry said.

No shots were fired and Chinese planes did not fly into Taiwan’s airspace, but into its Air Defense Identification Zone, a wider area that Taiwan monitors and patrols working to give it more time to respond to any threats.

Japan reported this week that eight Chinese navy ships, including an aircraft carrier, passed between islands in Japan’s southern Okinawa chain, northeast of Taiwan.

Taiwan also conducted previously announced missile exercises and other exercises off its southern and southeastern coasts this week.

China has never given up the use of force to bring Taiwan under its control, and the Taiwan Strait remains a potentially dangerous military flashpoint.

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(covering) by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Frank Jack Daniel and Thomas Janowski

Our criteria: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.